Fighting for the Faith (Gal. 1:1-10)
If you have been following the news, you probably heard about Abdul Rahman. The 41 year old Afghani, who converted from Islam to Christianity 16 years ago, was charged with apostasy, which according to Muslim law, mandates death. Prosecutors have asked for the death penalty for Abdul Rahman, calling him a “microbe.” Prosecutor Abdul Wasi demanded his repentance and called him a traitor: “He should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed.” The Afghan Attorney General was quoted as saying that Abdul Rahman should be hanged.
When facing a possible death sentence, Abdul Rahman held firm to his convictions: “They want to sentence me to death and I accept it… I am a Christian, which means I believe in the Trinity… I believe in Jesus Christ.”
One Judge could not believe Rahman’s refusal to repent that he stated that his mental state was to be examined. If he was found to be mentally unfit, the case would be dismissed. Abdul Rahman’s conversion to Christianity, while knowing that doing so is punishable by death, was viewed by some as evidence of mental incompetence.
One prosecutor said, “We think he could be mad. He is not a normal person. He doesn’t talk like a normal person. Doctors must examine him. If he is mentally unfit, definitely Islam has no claim to punish him. He must be forgiven. The case must be dropped.” Other sources said Rahman is “perennially jobless and mentally unbalanced.” To this Rahman has said, “”I am serene. I have full awareness of what I have chosen. If I must die, I will die…somebody, a long time ago, did it for all of us.” Rahman is now in exile in Italy after being freed from the Afghan govt due to pressure from the West.
When I heard this, I began to ask myself: What would I do in this situation? What would you do in this situation? Thankfully we live in a country where we can gather like this without fear of getting killed, but if you were Abdul Rahman, accused of converting to Christianity, would you fight or flee or forfeit? Is following Christ worth it?
Church history testifies to us that the answer is “yes!” Listen to how according to ancient traditions, the apostles fought for the faith until death:
James the son of Zebedee was beheaded in Jerusalem, the first of the apostles to die, during the Easter season in about the year A.D. 44.
Matthew was slain with the sword in a city in Ethiopia.
Mark was dragged through the streets of Alexandria until he expired.
Luke was hanged on an olive tree in Greece.
James the Less was thrown from a pinnacle or wing of the temple.
Philip was hanged up against a pillar in Phrygia.
Bartholomew was flayed alive.
Andrew was scourged then tied to a cross where he preached to the people for two days before dying.
Jude was shot to death with arrows.
Thomas was run through the body with a lance.
Simon Zelotes was crucified.
Peter was crucified upside down.
Matthias was stoned and beheaded.
John was exiled to the penal island of Patmos and later became the only apostle to die a natural death.
There have been more martyrs in the twentieth century than in all the previous nineteen combined. The Global Evangelism Movement reports the average number of people martyred for their faith each year is 160,000. There are currently an estimated one million people in prison for religious reasons. World Evangelical Fellowship shares that more people have died in circumstances related to their faith in this century than in all the twentieth-century wars combined.
How about us? Do we fight for our faith? Do people in our schools, workplaces, our neighbors aware that we are followers of Christ or is it purely a weekend/Sunday part of our life? Do we often avoid talking about Christ because it is not cool and we are afraid of what people will think of us? When the Lord’s name is taken in vain, do we stand up for Him? There are many who fight in committee meetings, fighting for the wrong things, but how far will we go for the gospel? “We are not persecuted,” you say, “what’s the big deal?” John Macarthur says:
“Today, Satan usually directs persecution not to a person’s physical body, but to his ego. He focuses on pride, the desire for acceptance, or the desire for status. That’s very effective. Satan doesn’t often threaten a Christian by saying, “If you witness, I’ll cut your head off.” He threatens a believer by saying, “If you witness, you might lose your job, your status–or someone might think you are strange.” The techniques Satan uses today have a tremendous effect in a subtle way. He has found that it is very effective to kill the church by making it complacent, indolent, fat, rich, and socially oriented. The church has watered down its theology to accommodate the world. That is a more successful form of persecution than having all Christians boiled in oil!” John MaCarthur
As someone said, “if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be any evidence to convict you?”
If you are like me, I want to stand up for the Lord and His gospel so many times, but I crumble under the pressure. I, like Peter, follow him afar off warming myself around the fire of the world. I am addicted to people’s approval. I am scared to tell people sometimes that I work at Moody Bible Institute, afraid of what they will think of me. So how do we do it? How can we as believers fight for the faith that has saved us and changed us? We need to fight.
But how do we fight?
Paul will help us answer that question as we begin our study through the book of Galatians. Last time, we said the theme of this book was “Faith fighting and Freedom Living in Christ.” Today we are going to talk about the gospel and how to stand up for it in a world that wants to destroy it.
v False teachers came from Jerusalem, saying they were friends of James and John, into the churches that Paul planted in his first missionary journey.
v They were called the “Judaizers.”
v They taught that, “It’s good to believe in Christ, but you need Moses too.” You need to be circumcised and you need follow some other rules for God to accept you.
v The Judaizers saw their message as Jesus Christ plus Moses, not just Moses, not just Jesus Christ.
v They also undermined Paul’s authority. Paul? Who’s he? He was that persecutor guy wasn’t he? Was he even with Jesus like Peter and James and John?
v Perversion of the truth is more difficult to spot than blatant falsehood.
v The believers in Galatia succumbed to the pressure. Paul says, “I can’t let this go on. I need to fight for the faith.
So how can believers fight for the faith? How can we, as Christians, stand up for the gospel? Paul says we are soldiers of Jesus Christ and we have principles that keep us going, like the US ARMY Warrior Ethos:
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I. We can fight for the faith by asserting our divine authority (Gal. 1:1-5). God, our Commander-in-Chief, commissions us with a great message.
1. God is the source of our mission (Gal. 1:1-2)
a. There was a special format of writing letters. First came their own name (this told you if this was junk mail or personal). Then came the name of the recipients of the letter – those to whom the letter was addressed. Finally would come a greeting.
b. Apostle—“one who is sent with a commission” The world calls the qualified, but God qualifies the called. While He was ministering on earth, Jesus had many disciples (“learners”), and from these He selected 12 Apostles (Mark 3:13–19). To write a letter as an apostle is equivalent to saying that the author of the letter is God Himself. If you and I read letters which come from the IRS or the government, surely we should pay careful attention to a letter which originated from God.
c. Paul is saying that he is an official representative of Jesus Christ.
d. Apostles today? Acts 1: 20-25 sets forth the qualification for an office. 1) Chosen by Jesus during earthly ministry 2) eyewitness of the Resurrection. This is why they questioned Paul. Paul, however, says I saw him alive! (1 Cor. 15:8). We don’t have the office of the apostle today, but we are all apostles in the sense that we are sent on a mission. Jesus said “Go” not “Sit.” Not called to keep score and watch the game, but to get out on the field and play.
e. “not from men nor through man”= His apostleship was not derived from a human source or given through a human channel. Paul: Did I see Jesus feed the 5,000? No. Did I see him turn water to wine? No. Did I see him heal the dumb, demonized and deaf? No. But I saw him do the greatest miracle of all…I went out one day to arrest God’s people, but He stopped me in my tracks and arrested me. He changed my life and called me to be His missionary. You mess with me, you mess with God!
f. THE MESSAGE: “My authority for writing to you does not come from any popular vote of the people, nor does it come through the appointment of some human higher-up. It comes directly from Jesus the Messiah and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. I’m God-commissioned.”
2. Jesus is the source of our salvation (Gal. 1:3-5).
a. The Gospel’s big idea (Gal. 1:3): Grace and peace is customary greeting. These two words together make up the gospel. Grace is the basis of salvation. Peace is the consequence. Grace is the root. Peace is the fruit. Grace is positional. Peace is practical. Grace is God’s unconditional, unearned acceptance of us accomplished through the love-gift of Christ (God’s riches at Christ’s Expense– not because of anything you do or have done, but because of who Christ is and what He’s done. You don’t need to go through rituals. You don’t need to live under regulations). The experience of grace by faith results in peace, a sense of harmony and completeness in our relationship with God and with one another. To look for grace and peace from any person, organization or activity in the world is to forget that God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are the only source of these blessings. We are saved by grace and we have peace with God and peace of God.
b. The Gospel broken down (Gal.1:4- 5):
1. It centers around a PERSON—the Lord Jesus Christ (Master-Savior- God’s anointed One.
2. He paid a PRICE—He gave himself. There is nothing that we can add to the value of His sacrifice. Nothing! He gave Himself. What do we have to give? Anything? Can we add anything to His sacrifice? He gave Himself. How wonderful and glorious that is! He gave Himself! When you give yourself, you have given everything—who you are, what you have, your time, your talent—everything. He gave Himself. He couldn’t give any more. Paul lifts up the cross and says: GOD LOVED YOU LIKE THAT! Religion says “do” Jesus says “done.”
3. with the PURPOSE—to deliver us from this present evil age. It means to pluck out, to draw out, to rescue, to deliver. The word strikes the keynote of the letter. The gospel is a rescue, an emanicipation from a state of bondage.The word here denotes, not a removal from, but a rescue from the power of the ethical characteristics of the present age. Salvation is not just fire insurance, it is to give you power over sin. Are you saved? The will of God is that, after He has saved us, we are not to live in sin. How wonderful this is! He can deliver us. He wants to deliver us.
4. This is all part of God’s PLAN: He will deliver us, and He will do it according to the will of God. It is God’s will that you be delivered.
5. The Gospel was for God’s PRAISE: To whom be the glory forever and ever, AMEN.
B. ILLUSTRATION: The Gospel is a rescue and only Christ can do it!
A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out:
- A SUBJECTIVE person came along and said: “I FEEL for you, down there.”
- An OBJECTIVE person came along and said: “It’s logical that someone would fall, down there.”
- A CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST came along: “You only THINK that you are in a pit.”
- A PHARISEE said: “Only BAD people fall into a pit.”
- A HINDU said: “This pit is for purging you and making you more perfect.”
- MATHEMATICIAN calculated HOW he fell into the pit.
- A NEWS REPORTER wanted the exclusive story on his pit.
- CONFUCIUS said; “If you would have listened to me, you would not be in that pit.”
- BUDDHA said: “Your pit is only a state of mind.”
- A REALIST said: “That’s a PIT.”
- A SCIENTIST calculated the pressure necessary (lbs./sq.in.) to get him out of the pit.
- A GEOLOGIST told him to appreciate the rock strata in the pit.
- AN EVOLUTIONIST said: “You are a rejected mutant destined to be removed from the evolutionary cycle.” In other words, he is going to DIE in the pit, so that he cannot produce any “pit-falling offspring.”
- The COUNTY INSPECTOR asked if he had a permit to dig a pit.
- The COUNTY TAX ASSESSOR came along and figured the taxes he owed on the pit.
- A PROFESSOR gave him a lecture on: “The Elementary Principles of the Pit.”
- An EVASIVE person came along and avoided the subject of his pit altogether
- A SELF-PITYING person said: “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen MY PIT!!”
- A HEALTH AND WEALTH PREACHER said: “Just CONFESS that you’re not in a pit.”
- An OPTIMIST said: “Things COULD be worse.”
- A PESSIMIST said: “Things WILL get worse!!”
- JESUS, seeing the man, took him by the hand and LIFTED HIM OUT of the pit.
1. We can have great confidence in our message since it has been endorsed by God himself.
2. It is God’s will that we be delivered from the power of sin. “I’m saved,” we say. But are we saved from greed? materialism? lust? Saved from gossip and envy? Saved from self-advancement and pride?
II. We can fight for the faith by remembering that deserting means destruction (Gal. 1:6-9). If we go AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave), we have no hope.
1. Deserting the Gospel is deserting Christ (Gal. 1: 6).
a. No thanksgiving section here…cut the small talk, let’s get to the heart of the matter.
b. Paul is “astonished” a strong word, meaning to be astounded and bewildered. I can hardly believe what I am hearing about you.
c. It is not the false teachers he is worried about, but “you”
d. “so quickly”= the interval of their conversion to their defection. Just the way little children follow a stranger because he offers them candy.
e. “deserting” = used both of military revolt and of a change of attitude” turning your back on, abandoning. The verb also indicates that it was something they were doing to themselves and not just taken away unknowingly.
f. “Him who called you in the grace of Christ”= you are not deserting an idea or a movement, but a person.
g. “are turning”= not totally gone, in the process of. They are in the process of transferring their loyalty from the One who in his grace and mercy had called them—that is, from God. To abandon the gospel is to forsake God.
2. Distorting the gospel leads to destruction (Gal. 1:7-9)
a. “different gospel” “They are not preaching another gospel,” writes Paul, “but a different message-one so different from the true Gospel that it is no gospel at all.” Like the cultists today, the Judaizers would say, “We believe in Jesus Christ-but we have something wonderful to add to what you already believe.” We cannot “add” something better to the grace of God!
b. But Paul does not allow their gospel to stand as a legitimate option. He sets forth a radical antithesis. His gospel cannot be served alongside other gospels, buffet-style. There is only one true gospel of Christ. The rest of his letter defines the true gospel in contrast to the false gospel, so that the readers will reject the false and embrace the true.
c. “are disturbing”= which literally means to shake back and forth and therefore to agitate and stir up. Figuratively, it connotes deep emotional disturbance and refers to an unsettled mind. When you shift your allegiance, you are on shaky ground. When you are on the rock, the foundation of truth, on God’s Word, even though you shake, the Rock will stand firm.
d. “distort”= “to reverse, to change to the opposite, to twist into something different.”
e. But the gospel of Christ is like a chemical compound to which no mixture can be added. It stands on its own. It needs no props or helps. It only asks to be its own free, unhindered, disarming self. For only then can it really be good news to lost men and women imprisoned in the tyranny of sin and self. A beverage may be very healthful and refreshing, but when a drop of poison is added to it, it becomes deadly.
f. “We” or “angel” = Paul emphasizes that no matter how great or impressive the preacher, it is the message that he proclaims that is important. The gospel preached by Paul is not the true gospel because it is Paul who preaches it; it is the true gospel because the risen Christ gave it to Paul to preach (Bruce). It is the message, not the messenger that is important.
g. “accursed” = “Anathema”=Let them be damned. It refers to “spiritual death”; devoted to destruction.
h. “If even we (I, or a fellow-worker) or a holy angel must be the object of God’s righteous curse, were any of us ever to preach a gospel contrary to the one we humans previously preached to you, then all the more the divine wrath must be poured out upon those self-appointed nobodies who are now making themselves guilty of this crime.”
B. ILLUSTRATION: DON’T DESERT HIM!
In December 1999, an extreme sports fanatic scaled the 120-foot statue of Christ the Redeemer on Brazil’s Corcovado mountain and jumped from its outstretched arms.
For the first ever such leap, Felix Baumgartner, 30, an Austrian, smuggled his parachute on board the little train that takes dozens of tourists up the 2,000-foot mountain to visit the statue. Once at the base of the Christ, he scaled the gray-stone figure, climbed on to one of its fingers, and jumped. Baumgartner’s parachute worked, and he walked away in one piece from the stunt.
How many people approach life like this daredevil. Rather than turn to the one who invites all who are weary to come to him and find rest, many prefer to jump from the safety of his hands. Unlike this thrill seeker, theirs will be a far different end, for there are no spiritual parachutes if we reject Christ.
1. God is more concerned about your spiritual state now than your past. Where are you now in your relationship with him?
2. Are you believing a twisted gospel? Believe in Jesus be baptized/speak in tongues/join our church only/etc.…Paul would say, “let all those who teach this be condemned.” Ways to twist the gospel:
Weaken it: deny the foundation of Jesus Christ and faith. Ex: Bible isn’t true, resurrection is a myth, Jesus had a wife, etc.
Dilute it: misrepresent it to make it more “palatable”. Ex: the Bible only applied to people at the time it was written
Blend it: readily admit as authoritative other sources. Ex. The Mormons regard the book of Mormon as authoritative
Poison it: mix dangerous error and truth. Ex. Leave your spouse if you are not being fulfilled in your marriage.
Deflect it: use Christ to promote their own ideas.
III. We can fight the faith by seeking our Commander’s approval (Gal. 1:10). We are servants of the Audience of One and His pleasure is our highest goal.
1. We can only serve one Master.
2. For=explanation of his harsh rebuke.
3. Now= “Have I made myself clear enough about Christ’s gospel? Can anyone now charge that I seek to please men in presenting it?”
4. “The severity of my language at least proves that I am no flatterer.”
5. Persuade means “to win over, to conciliate and render friendly to one’s self.”
6. Paul is here not speaking against being pleasing to others for the sake of the gospel (cf. 1 Cor 10:33, “I try to please everybody in every way; for I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved”), but against gaining the favor of others for one’s own advantage and as the motivation and goal of Christian ministry.
7. He that would be a faithful minister of the gospel must deny the pride of his heart, and be emptied of ambition, and set himself wholly to seek the glory of God in his calling. And generally, he that would be a faithful servant of Christ, must set God before him as a judge, and consider that he hath to deal with God: and that he must turn his mind and senses from the world, and all things therein, to God; and seek above all things to approve his thoughts, desires, affections, and all his doings unto him.
B. ILLUSTRATION AND APPLICATION
Henri Nouwen, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” pgs. 41-42.
Max Lucado, “The Applause of Heaven”
You’ll be home soon, too. You may not have noticed it, but you are closer to home than ever before. Each moment is a step taken. Each breath is a page turned. Each day is a mile marked, a mountain climbed. You are closer to home than you’ve ever been. Before you know it, your appointed arrival time will come; you’ll descend the ramp and enter the city. You’ll see faces that are waiting for you. You will hear your name spoken by those who love you. And maybe, just maybe, in the back, behind the crowds—the One who would rather die than live without you, will remove his pierced hands from his heavenly robe and…applaud.